As you all know, I work in a public library. Working in a public library you get a huge sense of what is hip and in with the middle graders. While I can’t for the life of me get the appeal of Geronimo Stilton (he’s just too perfect), there’s one middle grade series that has really sunk its claws into me. I am, of course, talking about the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski.
Those who might be unfamiliar, Sarah Mlynowski is a Canadian author who has written a plethora of novels ranging from middle grade to YA. Her books are beloved in Canada and this series in particular gets a lot of love from middle graders. I will tell you why that is as well: it has to do with the heroes of this series, Abby and Jonah.
First off, Abby and Jonah are Jewish, and every so often Abby or Jonah will teach the readers about Jewish customs, Hebrew words, and holidays and she does this in a way that feels organic to the story. Second of all, both Abby and Jonah are VERY well fleshed out and flawed as characters, and to the point where in each novel shows a bit more of personalities. Truthfully, I adore Jonah, and that is because he goes beyond the annoying little brother stereotype and often he’s the one suggesting to Abby how they can solve the mysteries in the fairy tales! I also adore Abby, and I love that her life’s goal is to become a Judge. What girl says that at her age? Not many.
The last thing about this series is that it is a fun twist on traditional fairy tales. From Rapenzel losing all her hair because of Jonah’s sports cleats to Beauty and the Beast just not being compatible for each other, I love the creativity that Mlynowski throws into each of these books. It really makes you think about how the original fairy tales are, but how easily one can flip them upside down.
I feel like more folks need to check this series out because not only does it have the depth that some middle grade lacks, but it adds pure fun to a genre that can often feel stale. Sure the covers are pretty cheesy, but don’t let them fool you — these stories are funny, light-heated and they and just plain fun. I say this as a person who has whipping through all the books that are currently out in less than a year. Definitely check this series out if you have a middle grader in your life or if you just love middle grade!